JOHOR BAHRU, 30 Jun 2017 – Starting Day 3 at the bottom of the standings, Team Rossi needed to an overall win by at least a two-game margin to leapfrog their opponent Team JJ on the final day of the Round 1 at the T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC).
Things were going swimmingly for Jorg Rosskopf’s team at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, as they enjoyed a five-game advantage at the midway point. But that was when Team JJ began their fightback in earnest.
In the end, the match ended 12 games apiece, as the two teams trail Team Persson and Team Maze in the standings after an exciting opening round to this unique made-for-TV table tennis competition.
Match 1: Elizabeta Samara (ROM) vs Wu Yang (CHN)
A cold start saw Samara losing the opening game 11-2, but the Romanian came back strongly to win the second game 11-9 to level terms. In so doing, she managed to take a game off Wu, which no one had done on the previous two days. And Samara could well have won another but was pipped 11-10 in the third. Despite going 3-1 up in the shortened fourth game, Samara again failed to close out the game, as Wu fought back to level the scores and take the winning point as time expired.
Said Wu: “Samara played really well and put me under so much pressure, but I think the key to victory was patience. Especially in the short final game when I was 3-1 behind and decided to slow things down, hoping my opponent would get flustered. I guess I controlled the tempo better.”
Match 2: Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) vs Tomoyuki Harimoto (JPN)
Harimoto said the previous day that he would loath to meet Ovtcharov, yet captain Jiang decided to send the 14-year-old out to face the German world number four. And Ovtcharov wasted no time to assert his dominance, gaining the initiative off the serve on many occasions and edging the first three games by close scores of 11-9, 11-8, 11-9. Harimoto ran out of steam in the fourth, going 10-2 behind before losing 11-3. The Kill Zone game offered Harimoto the chance to steal back a game, but Ovtcharov was simply superior in winning 5-2, and record a 5-0 clean sweep.
Said Ovtcharov: “Harimoto has shown he’s capable of upsetting so many top players and should be in the world top 20 soon. I regard him already as one of the top players. The first few sets could’ve gone either way but I was well prepared, played good tactics and derserved the win today.”
Match 3: Georgina Pota (HUN) vs Jeon Jihee (KOR)
Pota found answers to every Jeon shot and more in taking the first two games 11-9, 11-4. A tactical change saw Jeon taking the third game 11-3 as she elected to move Pota around more. But the Hungarian made adjustments and played a far better endgame to take game four 11-8 for a satisfying 3-1 victory.
Said Pota: “I played Jeon a few years ago and lost. She’s such a fast player, so this victory is sweet. I’m also happy to win three points for my team having played out 2-2 draws in my previous two matches.”
Match 4: Shang Kun (CHN) vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)
What was expected to be a tight tussle turned out to be anything but as Taiwanese Chuang stayed marginally ahead in winning the first two games 11-8, 11-8, then capitalised on Shang’s inaccuracy and lack of will to put more distance between them. A handy win for world number nine Chuang who would be surprised not to have faced a sterner test from a Chinese player.
Said Chuang: “I wanted to seize the early initiative and made sure I had a good start. That made the match a lot easier as it progressed and I’m happy with the result.”
Match 5: Cheng I-Ching (TPE) vs Matilda Ekholm (SWE)
A nervy Cheng played catch up in the opening game only to see Ekholm pipping her at the post 11-10. The Taiwanese player found her range midway through the second game when she won eight straight points from 2-7 behind to lead 10-7. But Ekholm refused to go away as she managed to fight back for the next three points only to send her return wide on the deciding point to lose 11-10. By this time, Cheng seemed to have worked out her game plan and duly took the third game 11-8 for a 2-1 win.
Said Cheng: “I wanted to win every point and wanted to make the most of every shot, which I guess is how I ended up winning this match.”
Match 6: Paul Drinkhall (ENG) vs Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)
Drinkhall can be counted on to make a fast start, which he did in going 5-1 up in the opening game only to see Samsonov fighting back to level at 5-5. The Belarussian took over from there winning the first two sets 11-7, 11-9, with Englishman Drinkhall always just half a step behind. And just went it looked like it Drinkhall would lose the third game as well, he fight back from 7-9 and 9-10 behind to snatch the game 11-10, which he celebrated with gusto. Samsonov punched back in the shortened fourth game, taking it 7-2 for a 3-1 win.
Team Captains’ quotes:
Jorg Rosskopf: “We’re happy to win 12 games but we had our chance for sure. We were ahead but then Shang Kun lost 4-0 but he tried everything and the match had some nice rallies. And we knew Vladimir Samsonov would be a tough customer for the final tie, with his experience.”
Jiang Jialiang: “Well what do you know, where in the world would you find a team competition where it’s all square after six great matches? And this is just the beginning for T2APAC, we have a lot more exciting matches to look forward to and I can’t wait for Round 2 to start.”
Match Day 3
Team Fixture 6: Team Rossi vs Team JJ